Health authorities in Masaka city and district local governments have reawakened the Village Health Teams-VHTs to support disease control and prevention interventions at the household level.
Masaka District Health Officer Doctor Faith Nakiyimba says that they are retooling the Village Health Teams, such that they can reduce the disease burden in the area, as part of a partnership with the Korean Foundation for International Healthcare-KOFIH.
She explains that the local governments moved ahead of the Ministry of Health to roll out a community health project which focuses on preventing and controlling diseases at the household level, one of the proven effective approaches in healthcare management.
Unlike the previous arrangement where the Ministry of Health engaged and deployed the teams to act as community distribution agents of basic drugs to children below five years, they have now been co-opted to look at the entire cycle of life in their respective communities.
According to Dr Nakiyimba, the community health teams have been trained in screening and basic management practices for non-communicable health conditions such as cancers, hypertension and diabetes, as well as promoting lifestyles that prevent communicable diseases in the population.
In their mode of operation, she says, the VHTs are going lookout for all forms of diseases in households and where necessary; appropriately link-up patients to referral centres and make regular follow-ups on them.
She explains that the project is engaging two VHTs in each of the 284 villages in both Masaka City and the district, and are accordingly going to be manned with elementary kits to support their operations.
She is optimistic that the project will help to decongest the health facilities of minor diseases as well as harness public health education and awareness campaigns, which is a vital component in disease prevention.
In 2020, the Ministry of Health hatched a slightly similar idea of recruiting Community Health Extension Workers (CHEWs) and presented it to the government for funding.
The idea, which according to Doctor Diana Atwiine, the Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary was considered by the government as one of the strategies to support the country’s aspiration of achieving universal healthcare coverage.
The government prioritized the deployment of the CHEWs to high disease-burden areas of Northern and Eastern Uganda, to assess their effectiveness before they are rolled out across the country.